The Best Sausages at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen

Just in time for Oktoberfest, we go in search of the best of the wurst at this old-school Peabody standby.

Co-owner Bob Gokey shows off the sausage-making arsenal inside Karl’s kitchen. Photo by Toan Trinh.

Co-owner Bob Gokey shows off the sausage-making arsenal inside Karl’s kitchen. Photo by Toan Trinh.

In the kitchen part of Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, head sausage honcho Bob Gokey’s two apprentices, Chris Lemieux and Peter Butcher, have their hands full. Lemieux is manning a large metal contraption Gokey calls “The Chopper,” which churns ice-cold chunks of veal and pork shoulder into Bavarian weisswurst. Butcher, meanwhile, is sectioning off stuffed casing into links of Polish kielbasa destined for the kitchen’s smokehouse. All told, in less than a half-hour on this Tuesday morning, they will have crafted 200 pounds of weisswurst and 50 pounds of kielbasa.

Watching the sausage get made, quite literally, is not an unfamiliar sight to Karl’s customers, who can observe the production of a variety of German and Eastern European sausages—more than 1,500 pounds each week—through a window that connects the kitchen and the café.

Owned by Bob and Anita Gokey, the 56-year-old establishment—part market, part eat-in café—is a Germanophile’s fantasyland, with shelves full of hard-to-find European baked goods, German and Scandinavian cookbooks, obscure Haribo gummy candies, and tubs of frozen goose fat, which Anita swears by for roasting potatoes.

The eat-in café is the latest addition to Karl’s, which relocated in 2012 to a larger space in Peabody five years after the Gokeys purchased the decades-old institution. Now regulars who make the trek from as far as Maine and Vermont (ice bucket in tow for bulk sausage purchases) can indulge in oversize homemade pretzels, schnitzel sandwiches, and platters of sausages with the traditional accoutrements—not to mention pints of Berliner Weisse spiked with fragrant Woodruff syrup—right on the premises. The couple also use the enlarged space for events such as beer tastings and product samplings, which Anita hopes to expand on in the future.

With a bigger kitchen, the Gokeys can produce a wider array of sausages as well—about 55 varieties at any given time. But if for some reason you can’t find what you’re looking for, chances are Bob can make it, if you have the recipe. “One of our -customers was having his grandparents over from Germany for Christmas, and he wanted to have this special sausage, schlesische weisswurst, for them,” Anita says. “So he had his mother’s butcher in Germany send us the original spice recipe.” Sure enough, after a few taste tests with customers to ensure its authenticity, it landed a spot in Bob’s overflowing three-ring binder, jammed with handwritten recipes dating back to 1958.

Just Encased

A few of co-owner Bob Gokey’s favorite Karl’s Sausage Kitchen creations.

Illustration by Ellaphant in the room

Illustration by Ellaphant in the room

For a hiking trip: Landjäger

“It’s classified as a summer sausage, which means it can be kept out of the refrigerator,” Gokey says. The smoked beef-and-pork links are pressed flat by hand, then piled on top of one another before the fermentation process begins.

For the lunchbox: Red-pepper-and-Gouda bologna

A Karl’s original recipe, this cheese- and-pepper-studded bologna continues to gain popularity. “I remember thinking it would be nice to make a quick sandwich without having to spend time slicing cheese and bologna, and portioning some kind of vegetable,” Gokey says.<

For Oktoberfestivities: RostBratwurst

This take on the popular pork-and-veal sausage contains beer in the meat mixture—and in the fall season, that beer happens to be Sam Adams Oktoberfest. “The traditional preparation is roasted over a charcoal grill while wrapped or rubbed with bacon,” Gokey says.

One Bourbon St., Peabody, 978-854-6650,